The Coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has been approved for use in the UK. The approval of the vaccine in the UK will lead to a massive expansion in the country's vaccination campaign.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary of the UK said that the rollout will start on January 4. The authorities ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine which will be enough to vaccinate 50 million people.
This is the second jab to be approved in the UK after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that was given the green-signal in December. The AstraZeneca vaccine will lead to a significant increase in vaccination as it is cheap and easy to mass-produce.
In terms of effectiveness, the first analysis of the trial showed 70 percent of people were protected from COVID-19 and nobody developed severe disease or needed hospitalization. Then researchers found that the efficacy percentage was just 62 percent when people were given two full doses of the jab and 90 percent when trial participants were first given a half dose and then a full one. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK has approved two full doses of the vaccine.
However, Noel Wathion, a member of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said on Tuesday, December 29 that the approval for the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine is still "unthinkable" and Europe was not going to approve the vaccine with a "winning formula" for the time being.
"The data we have at the moment is not even enough to give the AstraZeneca vaccine a conditional authorization. We need additional data about the quality of the vaccine. And after that, the company has to formally apply," Wathion added.
Compared to other vaccines, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be much cheaper. While Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Sputnik V will cost $33, $20 and $10 respectively, the AstraZeneca vaccine will be just $4.
Another positive side is that unlike the Pfizer-BioNTech jab which needs ultra-cold storage at -70 degree Celsius, the AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored in a standard fridge. As for Sputnik V, it also doesn't need ultra-cold storage and the vaccine is claimed to be 92 percent effective.
The made-in-china vaccines are mostly approved for use inside the country, as well as in the UAE and Bahrain with an unconfirmed efficacy rate. The state media reported that according to interim results of Phase III clinic trials of a vaccine developed by China National Biotec Group (CNBG), which is affiliated with Sinopharm, the COVID-19 jab has an efficacy of 79.34 percent.
The Beijing Institute of Biological Products said in a statement, "All patients produced high-tier antibodies and the neutralizing antibody-positive conversion rate was 99.52 percent." Even if some countries approve the Sinopharm vaccine it is not going to be cheap at all, as Sinopharm Chairman Liu Jingzhen told media earlier that it is expected to cost a couple of hundred yuan for one shot, and it would be less than 1,000 yuan ($145) for two doses.
Hospitals across mainland China have almost everything necessary to begin a mass vaccination program, to make the world believe that their vaccines work. But unlike the Western competitors, apart from Sinopharm, most of the Chinese vaccine makers did not release data from late-stage clinical trials regarding the efficacy and safety.
Another made-in-China vaccine, developed by Sinovac, which is a private Beijing-based vaccine maker, Turkey said that it had an efficacy rate of 91.25 percent, a finding that was based on preliminary results from a small clinical trial. In Brazil, officials claimed that this jab had an efficacy rate of over 50 percent but they did not release detailed data.
Irene Zhang, a 24-year-old student, who got a vaccine in December in the city of Hangzhou, said she paid $35 and got the shot from Sinovac. A healthcare expert in China, Yanzhong Huang, who is a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, noted that the two-dose vaccine could cost about $70, putting it out of reach for the rural poor.